3: Lines Talking Community Drawings

Empowerment Drawings: Pakistan

The community empowerment drawings from Pakistan are by women and men clients and staff participating in gender workshops for micro-finance programmes 2004 – 2005.

Many of the drawings are in the form of Diamond Tools that I developed for identifying community criteria for assessing empowerment, ‘happy families’ and differences between women and men’s poverty. The Diamond shape was chosen because if you just ask ‘what does poverty mean here’ people just say ‘everyone is poor’ or ‘has no power’. In order to tease things out I started to ask ‘what do the richest people look like?’ ‘what do the poorest people look like’, the Diamond shape representing that one might think those are the fewest people, with most people in the middle. If it turns out most people are at the bottom, then that is a discussion point. For full discussion of the Diamond tool and its various uses see on my professional blog.

The other drawing is a very early ‘Road Journey’ showing progress over time from bottom left to top right.

  • there are a wide range of styles of figure drawing, even on the same diagrams and using the same media – markers, biro or pencil.
  • some of the drawings have very expressive faces. Sometimes this is intentional – frowning, tears, smile. Other times this is from ‘happy accident’ where expressions are because of lack of drawing experience. But still relevant for my own adaptations either because they are so expressive or they make people laugh.
  • the same drawings occur on different diagrams for different places: violence, dirty unkempt hair, many unruly children, men’s drug addiction, sickness, cars, mobile phones.
  • type of clothes are important markers eg between rich and poor. But significantly women are rarely drawn with veils either by men or women, even where they were in reality wearing a burqa.

Taraqee Foundation: Baluchistan

These drawings were from Taraqee Foundation in Baluchistan – a conservative rural area next to the Afghan border. This workshop was facilitated and documented by me with Afghan refugees as well as local Baluchi women and men. I only have one photograph above because the women did not want to be photographed.

In this exercise I had done a bit of an experiment – women and men’s groups were in separate rooms and I asked some groups to draw ‘most empowered and least empowered woman’ and others ‘women and men in a very happy family/unhappy family’.

Interestingly the men in the women’s empowerment group walked out and left, but the men in the ‘happy family’ group were very interested saying they wanted their daughters to learn computing and video and they wanted to be able to take their wife out like they saw in the movies.

There were two groups of women one of Afghan women who were all wearing burqa and another Baluchi women who were not. It was the Afghan veiled women who were most firm that women should have their own name on everything.

Note the women in the pictures by women and also men are not shown as wearing heavy veil or burqa. They do not see themselves in that way.

Kashf Foundation, Lahore

Kashf in Lahore – a more cosmopolitan urban area in workshops facilitated and documented by micro-finance staff initially trained by me. I was not present. The staff documentation was quite thorough, but I have a lot of questions I wish I had been able to ask.

The first Diamond in particular is very poignant.

  • top left is a picture of an empowered woman and husband holding a flower with big lips out for kissing. The other top drawings have money for medicine, the husband has a job and the woman as well as the man has a car to drive. Only 1 member was in that position.
  • at the bottom left by contrast is a woman lying dead in a cemetery with her children crying around her because she could not stand it any longer. The other symbols at the bottom are for violence, a child working in the market, injection needle for drugs, a bed for sickness and a woman carrying a heavy load to the market. 80-100 women in their near community were in that position. Many on the verge of suicide they said.

In the last Diamond at the top were 2 women who had gone in an aeroplane and had a mobile phone to communicate regularly with their daughters.

Further details can be found in the reports below.

Damen and PRSP, Lahore

These Poverty Diamonds were done by women as part of of a community visit for microfinance staff gender training.

Creative translation possibilities

I started by printing out large A4 versions of the main diagrams and pasting in my A3 sketchbook. Then annotating them referring to the documentation on meaning. The I started to look at and replicate some of the different line styles.

The wide variety of very expressive drawing styles provide a rich set of possibilities for line animation, with different types of abstraction of the figure, clothing, expression etc. I tried out some very short test animations in Procreate 5.

Proposed translation set ‘ What happened to my airplane?’ empowerment translation story line

In terms of storyline, the most poignant is the image of the woman lying dead in a cemetery with her children crying around her – so many women identified with that. Compared to the vision of flying in an aeroplane and the happy couple.

The animation could actually be quite simple:

  • Scene 1: A foreground drawing of a woman with (probably unkempt hair) with a series of flashed up dream bubbles of aeroplanes and happy family etc.
  • Scene 2: A sequence of what actually occurred : violence, too many children etc. These could just be sequential still images. Or a series of very short 3-5 frame looped animations.
  • Scene 3: The final shot of the cemetery with the children animated then replicated to show the numbers of women in that situation.

I am aiming at:

  1. One or more evocative black and white versions, varying white on black and black on white.
  2. A version in colour in an ‘Islamicised’ version of Jonathan Hodgson
  3. Trying to produce a version with some black humour in simple line and colour
Black and white styles
Clear and simple story in diagrammatic white line on chalky background. The background is key to creating the atmosphere.
Artistic imaginative story. Flowing thin slightly stippled white line on textured black background.
Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis. Uses dramatic black shapes and line.
William Kentridge: sequential frames of additive and subtractive charcoal drawing.
Sand painting – uses tonal background. Effect could be replicated with sequential monoprint backgrounds.

Use of colour
Andreas Hekade’s apparently very simple animation about addiction tells the story through progressive changes in tempo and colour – just white-grey-black and shades of yellow.
Jonathon Hodgson’s psychological narrative has voice overlay. But the drawing style and many of the animation techniques using lines and symbols could be used without words.
Jonathon Hodgson’s simple duotone drawing style uses sequential scenes, some of which have minimal movement apart from lopped ‘boiling’ with the main action being carried by the music. But each drawing is very powerful.
Ian Gouldstone’s Dog Piano uses a simple mask blended over the image to focus the area of interest on the action and give colour.
David Shrigley’s very bold use of a single coloured background is effective in focusing on the action of the black and white line. The background colour and content need to be vert carefully chosen to fit the narrative.
Possible use of humour

There might be ways of using black humour, replicating some of the sound techniques and exaggeration in these rather stereotyped Pencilmation animations (don’t think they are tongue in cheek – how do I tell??)

Some questions
  • should I use the existing community drawings, or do my own versions? for example a simple black on white animation in Islamic calligraphy line, something like the black square animation above?
  • should the drawings all be in similar style? or use different line thickness and style to eg represent different degree of power?
  • should the story be sequential or eg try reversing the order to start with the cemetery as a shock and possibly repeated at the end, with the middle part explanatory?
  • is it possible to incorporate some black humour? eg in the way I portray the hectoring man, and maybe mother-in-law? if so does the whole animation need to be humorous, or just part of it? do I create humour through the images, or contrast image and sound?
  • what sounds to use?

The most useful software would be:

  • Draw a storyboard and experiment with alternative scenes and framing – planning different alternative narrative ‘translations’
  • Experiment first with MovieMaker for some simple black and white Flipbook visual and narrative exploration and output each scene to:
  • Procreate for more evocative artwork on background (eg manipulation of gouache backgrounds), line (eg stippling, calligraphic) etc and output to:
  • Rough Animator to add sound and improve animation flow.
  • Possibly finally output to After Effects.

I could also try to do the whole thing in Flipaclip, which is good for storyboard, add sound and timeline manipulation, but there is not so much artistic potential. But I could import background images from Procreate.